American chemist who, along with Charles J. Pedersen and Jean-Marie
Lehn, was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his creation
of molecules that mimic the chemical behaviour of molecules found in
Cram amplified and expanded upon Pedersen's ground-breaking synthesis
of the crown ethers--basically two-dimensional organic compounds that
are able to recognize and selectively combine with the ions of certain
metal elements. Cram synthesized molecules that took this chemistry
into three dimensions, creating an array of differently shaped molecules
that could interact selectively with other chemicals because of their
complementary three-dimensional structures. His work represented a large
step toward the synthesis of functional laboratory-made mimics of enzymes
and other natural molecules whose special chemical behaviour is due
to their characteristic structure.
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